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Veep: “Fishing”

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After last week’s laugh a minute pit stop in Silicon Valley, Veep dials things back a bit with “Fishing,” allowing Selina and company to regroup and stabilize their campaign base before moving forward. While “Clovis” centered on Danny Chung as Selina’s main competitor, “Fishing” brings George Maddox to the fore while introducing new contender/“one dick pony” Joe Thornhill. Between Bill Erickson’s (the always entertaining Diedrich Bader) competence and belief in Thornhill’s chances and creator Armando Iannucci’s cynicism toward the political process, Thornhill could easily best Selina. The Presidential nomination field is usually a massive one, with a wide array of candidates. While Randall Park and Isiah Whitlock Jr. remain fantastic as Danny Chung and George Maddox, they’re both experienced, canny opponents. Bringing in someone like Thornhill to change up the tenor of the campaign should give the writers more room to play.

Speaking of Whitlock Jr., Selina’s fishing trip and various interactions with Maddox are a highlight this week. This season has gotten a lot of traction out of glimpses of honesty from Selina. One such moment comes at the dinner table with Maddox, when she states she’d rather be shot than return as VP in a new administration. The Washington DC of Veep is one comprised almost completely of façade and double speak; it’s nice to get a peek behind the curtain now and again, particularly outside of the inner sanctum of Selina’s office. The fishing trip, along with Selina’s lunch with Erickson, also highlights the general incompetence of her office and campaign at the moment. They utterly fail in every goal for the weekend, too distracted by inter-office gossip and posturing to manipulate any situation to their advantage. Selina and her staff have been treating her as the presumptive nominee and next President. This over-confidence will come back to bite them, as will some of Selina’s less examined decisions.

Which leads us to Selina’s rebound selection of Dan to be her campaign manager. A choice needed to be made, but contrasting the confident Erickson with the puppy dog eager Dan gives the audience an indication of what’s next. His conversation with Selina is delightfully awkward, as they attempt to transition from a boss-employee relationship to a more equal partnership, getting creepily sexual and rather disturbing along the way. Selina torching Andrew’s car makes sense, given her interactions with him in the past. He definitely brings out her crazy. But Dan killing a dog? That’ll be hard to sit with. The entire exchange is stilted and uncomfortable, a dynamic Veep is very good at mining for laughs, and as fun as it is to see the rest of the gang get the news, watching Dan interact with them next week as their boss should take him to entertaining new levels of insufferability.

Amy reacts as well as one could expect to the news, as does the rest of the staff. There’s a stronger sense of camaraderie among the group this week that hopefully will continue into the campaign. These people will be spending even more of their time together for the next months or even years; it would be nice to see them let their hair down from time to time. The episode-long gag about Mike’s IVF samples pays off nicely, though the mission is thwarted by Jonah actually being at home. He’s genuinely touched that they drop by however, so the trip may not have been in vain. Jonah may be a dick, but he’s a needy one, and he could be a fierce ally for Selina if he commits to and feels accepted by her campaign.

Let’s take a minute to mourn the potential loss of Ryantology. It was a great comedic avenue for the series, keeping Jonah as vital a character as he’s been while generating fires for the staff to put out. As much as we’ll miss Jonah in this capacity, the writers are smart to change up his position on the series yet again, before Ryantology becomes played out. So far this season, Timothy Simons has been the standout performer in the show’s incredibly deep bench, and Simons and the writers have done a great job keeping Jonah relevant and engaging. The next phase of his journey will undoubtedly be just as entertaining as his adventure in journalism.

The Amy and Dan drama may be wrapped up, at least for now, but Gary’s shoulder continues to plague him, prompting him to try Icy Hot and Selina to utter one of the episode’s best lines, “My nostrils are like Vietnam.” It’s tricky to see where this arc is going; there’s only so much damage a shoulder can take, and Gary has already proven himself to be of limited use outside of his role as Selina’s body person. Regardless of what comes next, the material they’re giving Tony Hale at the moment is working well, and anything that prompts this kind of physical comedy from him is a good thing. Between the campaign manager resolution, the seeming end of Ryantology, and the introduction of not only Thornhill but also Selina’s campaign offices, “Fishing” is very much a transition episode. It may not have the intensity of “Clovis” and the rest of season three, but it sets up the second half of the season well, promising plenty of entertaining incompetence and political wrangling in the weeks to come.


Stray observations:

  • The opening at the campaign office is one of the best moments of the season. Seeing each of the staff’s approach to the new workers is great, as is Sue’s capper: “And never ever ever fuck up.”
  • Selina’s honesty with Maddox is fun, but her single best moment is her exchange with Ben at the campaign offices, another example of Veep at its cynical best. Having Selina open up more frequently this season has worked well to counteract her self-absorption. She may be ruthless, willing to abandon her entire staff at Erickson’s mere suggestion, but that comes from being worn down by a career in this noxious system. She has beliefs, she has policies she’d like to institute, but she also knows she’ll likely never succeed in a significant way with any of them. Who wouldn’t become jaded?
  • Selina’s capture and immediate loss of a large fish, complete with assistance from Dan, is a great moment. Yes, it’s on the nose, but it’s a fun portent of doom, and it fits nicely with the rest of the episode.
  • Kent and Sue continue their bizarre interoffice flirtation, arriving together at the bar. It’s been fun seeing the show gradually fill in our picture of Sue, who we learn this week is a connoisseur of fine wines.
  • Zach Woods continues his domination of TV, returning as Amy’s boyfriend Ed. This puts his memorable appearances or recurring roles in 2014 up to at least five: Kroll Show, The Good Wife, Silicon Valley, Playing House, and now Veep. As Mugatu would say, he’s very hot right now, and understandably so.